Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Burgess Shale Discovery

A permanent plaque in the Canadian Rockies Yoho National Park reads:
Burgess Shale was placed on the World Heritage list at the 1980 meeting of the UNESCO world heritage committee as a site of outstanding universal value forming part of the national heritage of mankind. Dating from Middle Cambrian time more than 500 million years ago, it is one of the world’s most significant fossil sites. It has yielded more than 150 species of some 120 genera. The remarkably preserved soft-bodied marine animals, unique to Burgess Shale, are of major importance to evolutionary biology.

The Reasons to Believe organization sponsored a “Burgess Shale Adventure” to the Canadian Rockies from August 25-30. Hugh Ross (RTB founder) and Fazale Rana were the scholars interpreting daily discoveries during evening meetings.

The highlight of the adventure was a 9 km, 7 hour hike to the Mt. Stephen fossil beds. The 900 meter elevation ascent (and 900 meter descent) was characterized as “a difficult hike” with little disagreement from the participants. Over half of the group’s participants completed the hike led by Mount Burgess Geoscience Foundation guides.

Apart from our enjoyment of the sheer and magnificent beauty of Lake Louise and Banff National Park, there exists a potential for even deeper intellectual satisfaction for park inquisitors. The Burgess Shale communicates startling historical scientific truths. The initial appearance of dozens of phyla of living creatures in an unbelievably short period of earth’s geological history speaks to an unprecedented event. Biologists’ assignment of phylum classifications to numerous Burgess Shale creatures communicates a startling fact: These 500+ million-year-old creatures appeared suddenly, out of the proverbial “nowhere.” They seem to have no biological antecedents in older rocks.

To what event do we refer? Secular scientists unabashedly refer to this event as an explosion—the Cambrian Explosion. Imagine this improbable scenario: If a city springs up complete with homes and factories of varying architectural styles on previously unoccupied land virtually overnight, we may describe the event as unnatural or even supernatural. If such an event were actually to happen, we would be hard pressed to propose a natural explanation.

The RTB scholars did not propose similar colorful analogies to explain the Burgess Shale fossils. Rather, they used tested methods of scientific inquiry. The scholars did not propose unlikely naturalistic explanations for this phenomenon. In our day, most science professionals have ruled out any and all possible supernatural explanations in the world of our existence. We encourage our readers to examine the evidence uncovered by traditional methods of science, including causal adequacy. It is a part of the scientific method encouraged by the counsel of scripture.

We must consider the supernatural origin of sudden, novel species in the fossil record. Burgess Shale fossils provide an outstanding example. There exists no naturalistic explanation for the Burgess phenomenon. Rather, we are called upon to consider supernatural intervention for the sudden appearance of multitudes of novel Burgess Shale creatures. Use of the adjective evolutionary to describe the Cambrian Explosion is an inaccurate use of that term as commonly understood.